15 May 2013

Facebook Censorship: Facebook Loses its Head over Gory Videos

Facebook Censorship

Social media giant Facebook recently found itself mired in a swamp of controversy of its own making after a couple of gory videos were published on its social media platform network. This has led to Facebook censorship on certain subject matters.

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The two videos showed people being beheaded, apparently in Mexico. In the first, two men admit to being  smugglers for a drugs cartel. They are then attacked with a chainsaw and a knife while the cameras are rolling. The second, arguably even more disturbing, shows an unnamed woman being beheaded by a man wearing a mask.

We should perhaps make it clear at this point that nobody here at SEO Web Marketing has actually seen the videos. We have trouble enough swatting flies in this office. But there are people out there (you sickos!) who get a kick out of watching this stuff, as horrific and disturbing as it is.

And that’s where Facebook found itself in the doggy doo. When a British student found the videos circulating around his network, he  was understandably shocked and reported them to Facebook as ‘inappropriate material.’

He was then equally shocked to receive an email back from Facebook saying that it would not remove the videos as they did not “violate Facebook’s Standard on graphic violence”. It later said people had a right to depict the “world in which we live”.

It wasn’t a popular decision though.  Even one of the organisations that sits on Facebook’s safety advisory board, the US-based Family Online Safety Institute (FOSI), was appalled. It said the violent videos had “crossed a line” and called on Facebook to remove them.

“Personally and professionally I feel that Facebook has got this call wrong,” said Stephen Balkam, the organisation’s chief executive.

An online petition to have the videos removed also garnered hundreds of names in just a few hours.

The result, thankfully, was inevitable. A few hours after saying it would not remove the videos, Facebook did a u-turn. “We will remove instances of these videos that are reported to us while we evaluate our policy and approach to this type of content,” it said in a statement.

Now your first thought might be, ‘Jeez! How bad does something have to be to violate Facebook’s standards on graphic violence!’ but there is a serious point about censorship here.  To what extent does a social media company have a responsibility to censor what people use its digital media network for? Should there be such a thing as Facebook censorship? Answers on a postcard please…

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